by Raheel Mohammed
The producers of the film are calling it Bollywood with a London, urban vibe. This film may not have scenes involving running around trees with the Himalayas or the Alps as a backdrop, but a view of the London Eye and Big Ben is equally enticing.
As part of the Alchemy Festival organized by the Southbank Centre, a group of young Muslim women who took part in our I Can Be She project last year, have been given the opportunity to be involved in the making of the film. The screening will take place on Sunday April 22nd, in the Royal Festival Hall at 4.30pm, followed by the classic Mughal-E-Azim, and all for free.
We first met this group of young women and Ayan, their mentor, at an exhibition we ran last year as part of the 100-year anniversary of International Women’s Day. The idea was to challenge stereotypes surrounding Muslim women through film, photography, radio, and fine art. It was an opportunity to hear the stories of a diverse range of Muslim women on their own terms and in their words.
After the exhibition we were approached by Ayan to run workshops with her young women in film, photography, fine art, and radio. We then staged an exhibition of the work produced in these workshops. We were fortunate to have partners such as the BBC and the British Film Institute help with the workshops and the latter partner introduced us to the Southbank Centre.
This journey started with a young Somali woman who said to us: “I know Muslim women are doing great things, I just never get to hear about them.” It led us to launch I Can Be She, and over a year later, a group of young Muslim women are helping to create a Bollywood film as part of a major London festival. As I write this these young women are filming nearly 100 people in a scene on the roof terrace of the Southbank Centre.
These young women are continuing in the long tradition of Muslim women who have pioneered change in society. They are part of a heritage and history of brave women who challenge stereotypes and continue to remain the backbone of their families and communities.